Hi there! I am Jess and I will be contributing to Gillian's blog every so often from now on. Right from the beginning of Gillian’s blogging adventures, she has been taking me and our fellow collaborators - Jasmine and Keely - to hot parties and exclusive events around town, and we were privileged to be joining her in setting our eyes upon exquisite fashion and beauty products before the rest of Hong Kong. Gillian knows very well that I lack the kind of dedication and motivation to keep a blog on my own, so when she asked if I could be a guest contributor to her fabulous blog, it sounded like the perfect gig and I jumped at the chance. Thanks Gillian for the invitation!
So what will you be reading in my posts? Well, I will be writing about exotic travel destinations, up and coming restaurants, inspiring fashion trends, any and every French happenings around town (oui, j'aime tout ce qui est Français!), and perhaps even a few odd posts or two on relationships!
To kick off my first post, I would like to clue you in on a cause that is super close to my heart. As a keen yet somewhat inexperienced scuba diver, I feel a strong connection to the ocean. That is why I seize every possible opportunity to submerge underwater in the hopes of perfecting my skills. I have just over 20 dives under my belt but it feels like I have already been to some of the best sites in the world already, including Sipadan in Malaysia and Palau. I know you have probably been hearing divers telling you that it is the most surreal experience to swim alongside with magnificent ocean giants like sharks and manta rays, but until you try it for yourself, you really don’t know what you are missing out on!
So when I heard about the first annual San Francisco Ocean Film Festival coming around to Hong Kong, I immediately booked my tickets and was so anxious for the day to come. The event is co-organized by the Ocean Recovery Alliance, a non-profit organization dedicated to participate in innovative projects and initiatives with the hopes of improving the health of our beloved ocean. The festival is going on at the same time as the one in San Francisco, showing over 40 films in a variety of length, hoping to raise public awareness on ocean protection. They are doing an awesome job bringing over some cool stuff like conservation, wildlife, marine protected areas, culture, sports and even a special screening dedicated to surfing.
On last Saturday, 10 March 2012, I went for the Tomorrow’s Ocean forum at the Fringe Club, which is the only event in the festival that isn’t a film. Four ocean experts, including Professor Yvonne Sadovy from the Hong Kong University, Dr. Dan-ling Tang from South China Sea Institute of Oceanology, renowned conservation photographer Paul Hilton, and Conversation Director of WWF Hong Kong Dr. Andy Cornish, gave a seminar on a variety of topics spanning from sustainable seafood and fishing methods, to remote sensing of marine ecology using satellites, to impact of building the third airport runway on Hong Kong’s marine ecosystem. One particular presentation that really inspired me was Paul Hilton’s Manta Ray of Hope Project and his captivating photographs of many beautiful ocean creatures. Paul has been working to increase awareness on conservation of manta and mobula rays, and one of the ways is through his amazing documentary on the growing trade of gill rakers taken from manta rays that are used in traditional Chinese medicine in Hong Kong and Southern China. You can watch his documentary on the project website.
Until someone puts the facts bluntly in front of our eyes, most of us have been living in denial. Hong Kong, as one of the largest seafood importers, has definitely contributed our fair share towards the problem. If we keep on consuming the way we do, we will wind up spotting more and more empty fish tanks in our live seafood restaurants, which is in all honesty not such great décor in itself. They also shared a few tips on how in small ways we can make a huge difference! You could pop down to Marks & Spencer for a can of tuna caught using pole and line fishing, which is a much more sustainable way of catching seafood, since it kills far less by-catch (the fish and shrimps that are unintentionally caught in the nets) than traditional fishing methods like trawling, which involves pulling a net through the water and thus wiping out life in large areas of the seabed. The amount of plastics going into our ocean is another growing problem - the key is to reduce, reuse and recycle, which is such a boring cliché, but it is ultimately what works!
The Film Festival runs from now until Thursday, 22 March 2012, in venues dotted across Hong Kong, so there is really no excuse for you not to go. On the coming Friday, 16 March 2012, I will be watching eight short films featuring elephant seals, ocean sports, coral gardening, shark fin trade, shark sanctuary, whales, and even mermaids at the i-Square, with limited tickets still available here. The event may be only running for two weeks, but the good it does last all year round, so grab a ticket for the remaining shows, check out the Ocean Recovery Alliance’s website to learn more about the issues our ocean is facing today, or better still, start telling your friends about it!